I am really quite good at getting off track.
A couple of mornings ago, I was in the middle of eating a bowl of Cheerios. Knowing I was going to be making cookies later, I hopped up to check on the number of eggs in the fridge. Seeing fewer than I wanted, I hustled outside to check the chicken coop for the previous day’s offerings, but I realized I forgot to bring out the collection of food scraps sitting on the kitchen counter. Back in I went. I grabbed the food scraps, and on my way out the front door for the second time, put on a coat and hat and grabbed the envelope I had ready for the mailbox the day before. With the envelope in my mouth, the chicken scraps in one hand and an empty egg container in another, I made my way back out to the chicken coop. Praising our eight glorious beauties for a generous production, I gratefully collected their perfect protein orbs while noticing the growing collection of chicken poop on top of their nesting boxes. I set everything down, took a shovel and scraped the flat surfaces clean. Upon scooping some chicken scratch out of a bag in their food bin–something I spread only for the benefit of giving them something to do while being cooped up–I was reminded that the family of 13 mice that had been living in the food bin had still been given no eviction notice. I reached in my pocket for my phone, which is usually on my body somewhere, so that I could write ‘Decon’ on my grocery list and realized I didn’t bring my phone out. So, I went in the house to grab my phone because I figured it was a beautiful morning of light to take some pictures of my chickens and I might as well kill two birds (an unfortunate but appropriate idiom) while adding poison to my grocery list.
With all wild-hair missions completed–egg collection, poop scraping, chicken scratch spreading, grocery list making, and chicken photo session–I made my way back into the house with soggy Cheerios on my mind. But, the letter was still in my coat pocket. So, the coat goes back on, and I reasoned that, as long as I’m going to walk the 16th of a mile down to the mailbox, I might as well get the dog-walk in around our country block. Forty-five minutes later I entered the house and sat down to finish my Cheerios. Needless to say, they were not finishable.
And this is how it goes in my life these days. That was just a 45-minute slice in my 24-hour day. Be thankful you’re not me. And, if you’re in your fifties and experiencing a similar failure to focus, believe me, I understand. I also manage to drive miles past exits on trips I have made a hundred times because I’m engrossed in some podcast. And I won’t go into detail on the other art I’ve perfected but I’ll just say that I’m exceptionally good at visualizing eating clean and toning my muscles, but never following through on what it would take to achieve this.
And yet, these personal weaknesses don’t consume me. Ok. That’s not true. Sometimes they do consume me. However, what I have going for me is that years ago, the things that really matter were instilled in my heart by parents who knew how to focus on putting first things first. They were really good at heritage.
Christmas in our family started on the first Sunday in Advent, four weeks before Christmas. Mom’s beautiful, homemade Advent candle holder graced our kitchen table and we lit a new candle each week: Prophecy, Angel, Shepherd, Bethlehem and Christ. We attended Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day services. And I somehow think this would have been the case even if my dad wasn’t the pastor. On Christmas Eve, after the children’s service, our family would line up at the top of our steps, in order of youngest to oldest and march down singing “Thy Little Ones, Dear Lord, Are We.” We’d end up in a semi-circle around the tree where we all had to recite our Christmas program recitation again and then we’d all recite the entire Luke 2 Christmas Story again and then each choose a verse of a Christmas hymn to sing. Yes. One can just imagine the length of this hymn fest as each of us grew up and got married and brought spouses and children into that semi-circle. One year, we sang through 21 verses. (It started to get pretty tough if you stood at the other end of the semi-circle because everyone before you would pick the hymn you were going to pick.) Back then, it was simply maddening to have to endure all of this before opening gifts. Today, I realize it was all a part of ‘the Lord giving me a heritage from those who feared His name.’
I don’t foresee much improvement in the coming years in the area of staying on track. I think it’s going to be a slow downhill grind. How thankful I am for parents who kept me on track with what really matters in life–a focus on a Christ-centered heritage, grounded on God’s love for us through the holy Child of Bethlehem.